Father Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel on September 8th, 1771. It was the fourth of California’s 21 missions, and it stood alone in its unique fortress-like construction.
Construction of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel
The Mission was named for the Archangel Gabriel, and it was constructed about nine miles outside the Las Angeles Pueblo. The mission was built to resemble a military fortress, with adobe walls standing five feet thick and small slit windows decorating the outside walls. The mission proper was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of land used for farming, raising cattle, and other agricultural practices. The stock and grain produced by Mission San Gabriel Arcangel made up one fourth of the entire mission system’s assets.
How did Mission San Gabriel Arcangel Support Itself?
Like most California missions, the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel supported itself and the Native inhabitants of the area by growing crops of wheat and corn. They also raised herds of horses and cattle, and cultivated grapes in a vineyard. The mission maintained an economy that was based heavily on crops such as corn and beans. It also produced many fine wines, soaps, and candles. The majority of soap and candles used at other missions, in fact, were produced at Mission San Gabriel Arcangel.
Native Americans and Mission San Gabriel Arcangel
While the mission eventually gained financial success, it was not a simple endeavor. The missionaries discovered upon their arrival at San Gabriel that the Native Americans in the area were hostile to the invaders of their land. They refused to help with the growth of the mission, and were aggressive toward the Spaniards. Eventually, however, the founders of the missions gained the respect and cooperation of the Indians. The economic success of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was due in a large part to the help of the local inhabitants.
Mission San Gabriel Arcangel Today
The mission still displays the importance of the local Indians through the preservation of the Native American burial ground. This is one of the largest burial grounds of its kind, with more than 6,000 Indians buried. In this way, the legacy of the first Americans on this land is preserved.